Sep 15, 2013; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Chiefs strong safety Eric Berry (29) runs for yardage after recovering a fumble from Dallas Cowboys running back Lance Dunbar (25) (not pictured) during the second half at Arrowhead Stadium. The Chiefs won 17-16. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Kansas City Chiefs Make An Interesting Move In The Secondary

Most of the time spent after the Chiefs devastating loss in the playoffs was spent complaining about the play of the secondary, specifically at safety. Many pointed to Seattle’s one-deep defense and then compared it to the play of Kendrick Lewis and Quintin Demps and declared the safety position a serious hole in the defense. So serious, in fact, many thought the Chiefs should draft a safety with their first round pick.

It appears the Chiefs have an in-house plan for dealing with the free safety position.

This is interesting. The knock on Eric Berry has been he is not a playmaker in the passing game, specifically in coverage. As a result he is moved around the field, and lines up just about everywhere else other than a free safety. Berry spent a lot of time as the second middle linebacker next to Derrick Johnson in passing downs for example.

It appears the Chiefs now plan on moving Berry to the free safety position and are going to let Husain Abdullah roam around as the box safety. A curious decision, indeed.

There is something to keep in mind about Berry as a cover safety: He’s better at it than you’d think. Pro Football Reference gave Berry a +12.5 coverage grade last season, third best amongst all safeties in the NFL. Here’s a chart we used in a previous post explaining Berry’s coverage abilities from a year ago.

Catch Percentage
PFF Coverage Grade
Eric Berry6358.7+12.5
Earl Thomas2864.3+11.1
Kam Chancellor4170.7+4.5
Husain Abdullah (2011)2369.6+0.1
Quintin Demps2755.6-0.6
Kendrick Lewis-1.272.7-1.2

We are not arguing here whether or not Berry is a better cover safety than Kam Chancellor or Earl Thomas, but are instead pointing out that Berry has the abilities to be a very good cover safety in Bob Sutton’s scheme. Images of larger tight ends like Antonio Gates dragging Berry down the field are surely going to be in the minds of a lot of people when thinking of Berry as a coverage guy, but don’t let those few instances blind you from Berry’s larger body of work.

Consider, too, what Berry was asked to do in previous seasons. As a cover two safety, Berry is reading and reacting more than he is being asked to make an aggressive play. Berry also lost a season to a knee injury – coming off a rookie season where is was an average cover man – and then struggled to regain trust in his knee early in 2012. But even in 2012 he showed signs of being a good cover safety.

2012 First 8 Games: -7.9 PFF coverage grade, 3 TDs, INT, a pass defended, 73.9% percentage caught

2012 Last 8 Games: +5.5 PFF coverage grade, 2 TDs, 7 passes defended, 50% percentage caught

Again, not all-World “greatest cover safety of all-time” numbers in the second half of 2012, but clearly a big difference in his ability to stop the pass. Add those last eight games to his 2013 numbers and there is a strong record building in favor of Berry growing as a pass defender.

Berry is the most stable force on this team to play the one-deep coverage concept. This is a move that should work out well for Sutton and the Chiefs.

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